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Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Media's Role in Hillary Clinton's Lost Bid for President

Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination effectively ended Tuesday night when Barack Obama earned the last handful of delegates necessary for a win. Research by Erika Falk, a communications expert at The Johns Hopkins University, shows that the media treated the two candidates differently from the start.

After analyzing the first month of campaign coverage in the nation's top six circulating newspapers (USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post and Chicago Tribune, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation), Falk found that Clinton:

Was more likely than Obama to have her legislative title dropped and be referred to by her first name or by her gender.

Was mentioned in just 65 percent of the number of articles as Obama: Eighty-four stories mentioned Obama whereas just 55 mentioned Clinton. Only nine stories mentioned Clinton without mentioning Obama whereas 38 stories mentioned Obama without mentioning Clinton.
Had fewer paragraphs written about her than Obama did: 631 paragraphs were written about her compared to 934 about Obama.

Was less likely to see her name in a headline than Obama: Fifty-nine stories had headlines containing "Obama" compared to just 36 with "Clinton."

"It is also true that if Clinton and Obama results are examined in historical context, it appears that Clinton did have more issue coverage than women who preceded her, but still had less issue coverage than a typical man," Falk said.

Amy Lunday

Falk, the author of "Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns" (University of Illinois Press, January 2008) and associate program chair of the master of arts in communication in contemporary society program at Johns Hopkins.

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